Feature: Chinese documentary filmmaker to experience first online film festival amid COVID-19 pandemic

Source: Xinhua| 2020-05-26 07:53:00|Editor: huaxia

WASHINGTON, May 25 (Xinhua) -- This year is supposed to be a big year for Xu Chuang, a New York-based Chinese film director, as he is excited about the premier of his new documentary film "Twinkle Dammit!" and is also looking forward to the first-time interaction with the audience.

But as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, film festivals, international or regional, have mostly gone online.

"It was such a pity that I couldn't go to the movie theater and see how people react to my film, I wonder when they will laugh, when they will cry," Xu told Xinhua in a recent phone interview.

"Twinkle Dammit!," which features Margaret Leng Tan, a renowned toy pianist, is to be premiered at the 23rd Brooklyn Film Festival, scheduled from May 29 through June 7.

Due to the current situation, the film festival this year will be staged online only and be open to the public free of charge.

Xu's new documentary film was also a finalist in the Student Academy Award last year, and now an official select by many other film festivals all around the world.

He is pleased that the Brooklyn Film Festival, despite going virtual, is not canceled all together, so his film could at least have the opportunity to be seen by a global audience during this special time.

Xu said he will not be able to have a real-time Q&A session with audience, but a pre-recorded Q&A video will be played at the end of the film. And that, according to him, could not replace the face-to-face experience.

As U.S. states gradually reopen their economies, certain nonessential businesses are allowed to operate under social distancing guidelines. But in most cases, movie theaters remain closed.

"Recently I have been thinking about the meaning of art. When we reopen the economy, art and cultural industry seems to be the last priority," said Xu. "So art and culture are nonessential?"

Xu, who has lived in New York for four years, received his MFA degree in School of Visual Arts, and then founded the film production company "Mrs. Skeleton Production."

"Now, it's obvious that I can't go out and shoot footage, I could work on preliminary planning, writing scripts, and also editing and production," Xu said. "I am working at home everyday preparing for my upcoming projects."

Despite still having work to do, Xu said the whole film industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. "It's like we are standing where we were, can't move forward," he said.

Amid growing pressure, California Governor Gavin Newsom said last week that the state will roll out guidelines that will allow many counties to resume filming as early as this week, but the remarks have led to a mixed reaction.

Xu said a lot of film directors he knows are not shooting outside, except those who are working on stories about the COVID-19 pandemic. "Generally we just don't feel safe going outside right now," he said.

Xu has recently received an email from organizers of a film festival in Italy, who have expressed concerns about the current situation, while also attempting to strike a positive note.

"I strongly believe that in times of deep existential crisis like those we are living now, artists should be the ones that tell us that is still possible to watch the world through our own eyes, that a new sight is always possible and it is maybe one of the few remaining ways of finding a reason for our life and our work," the email read.

Xu said the pandemic would in no way change his determination to continue his career. "This is what I do, and what I love," he said. "After the pandemic fades, things will get better, and I'll definitely go outside immediately with my camera, and start filming." Enditem